Céline et Julie Vont en Bateau (Celine and Julie Go Boating) Reviews
So here I go.
For me, Celine and Julie Go Boating is simultaneously about two things:
1) One is meta-art, using the term "art" in general terms, be it theater, painting, architecture, music, literature, cinema, etc. The typical role of the viewer is passive, because the viewer has no control over the events. Events just unfold regardless of the viewer's preferences. Everything has a beginning, and has an end. Even if the end has a vague nature, it is there to close things. Time and space cease to exist in that work of art once that the ending has commanded it.
However, we know that is not entirely true. Art is transcendent, and its appreciation can lead to a more meaningful construction of human coexistence, an exteriorization of the soul, heck, an escapism at the worst of all cases. The authors of the meaning of art are us, not only the makers. In that way, art finds perpetuity in our existence and in humanity as a whole.
2) The second one is the creative process of the mind. This points out at two things at the same time: memory and art, and that is how I make the connection between points 1) and 2). Celine and Julie Go Boating mimics the mental process that we go through while being a "passive" participant of the story watching it in a theater, watching it in a big screen, appreciating it in a whole painting image, hearing it in the lyrics of a music, etc. Just think about how your memory works when trying to remember one of your favorite art works that follows a progression of elements and events, and you'll see that the meaning remains, but begins to acquire holes as a cheese. Still, the transcendence remains, perhaps permanently.
In a way, I see the film as an invitation to become active viewers instead of passive, leaving the feelings at the theater or on the couch. One can be an active participant as much as desired, twisting the meaning of it all and sharing it with others to form a concoction of perspectives: the beauty of a cinema community, in short.
And yet, this film is about much more. Maybe I'll understand it later, as my perception twists things once again.
Rivette's stamp is worth a honorable mention here. His style is unique. He fuses joyous personages with irreverent humor mainly based in their playful personalities. He places symbols all over the places, that range from meta-references to the swap of identities and using both women as versions of Alice and versions of the rabbit interchangeably. He combines the Nouvelle Vague with a twist on the Alice in Wonderland tale meets Henry James' The Romance of Certain Old Clothes. He uses editing for mirroring the intentional dreamlike nature of it all, just like the mind works. He makes us laugh. He scares us with some ghastly imagery. He leaves us perplexed.
Magnifique, and very entertaining.
We are like in a blind man's bluff, the film begins with a head-scratching hide-and-seek tailing between Julie, a librarian and Celine, an amateurish magician, we will never know from the context whether they are acquaintances before or the first-sight attraction draws them closer, after a chirpy episode of putting out feelers, they lives together in a small apartment, where Celine casually mentions of her unpleasant experience working as a nanny for a mystified ménage-ŕ-trois family, it intrigues Julie's curiosity, from then on, a very unique ghost-house yarn has been ingeniously unveiled through Celine and Julie's multiple impersonations as the reserved nanny in a boudoir drama.
The film is such a pioneer in its blending liberal modus operandi of whimsicality (the first half looks like everything is done impromptu) with elaborately calculated ad hoc murder scheme, Celine and Julie's laid-back and bubbly kindred spirit permeates the film and modulates its rhythm and pulse up to a labyrinthine fantasy, utterly absorbing and an influential progenitor to many future rule-breakers (MEMENTO 1999, 10/10 for instance).
It is a diptych in its cinematographic style as well, the insouciant nouvelle vague influence vs. a multi-angle observation indoors, which magnify Berto and Labourier's disparate temperaments, intensify Ogier and Pisier's distinctive mystique and functionally wrap us up into this whodunit during the long-haul.
Meanwhile, Rivette adequately leaves viewers many open threads to chew on, like the jumpy intercutting of the shots in the house during Celine's magic show, is a perplexing maneuver to lure us into the mystery, and it works. Also, one snippet when they let a coin to decide whose turn to visit the mansion, Julie cannily says "head I win, tail you lose", one should not miss the ephemeral stimulation which plainly gives more credits than its ostensible spontaneity.
At first glance, its 193 minutes running time looks daunting, but as I watched it separately in two days, it turned out pretty well. It is a film can wholly alter one's notion of story-telling in an anti-cinematic methodology, and Rivette pulls it off effortlessly, a must-see for all thirsty film gourmets plus, it has a sterling ending which will make all its time worth the wait.
IN THE NIGHT. IN THE DARK!!!!!!
It is entirely appropriate that Juliet Berto's Céline is a magician, because the movie itself is an amazing conjuring trick; when it's over, you'll probably find yourself wondering how you've been kept spellbound for three hours by little more than Rivette's inventiveness and the infectious enthusiasm of Berto and Dominique Labourier's performances. The film works equally well as a playful experiment in cinematic form, a tribute to childlike imagination and a feminist buddy movie. The only thing at odds with the prevailing spirit of feminism, and perhaps the best evidence that the film was, after all, directed by a man, is a pointless bit of nudity, but I'm happy to write that off as dated Seventies permissiveness rather than titillation. In any case, who the hell am I to complain, right?! The greatest tribute I can pay this three-hour-plus film is to say that, when Céline and Juile's game finally comes full circle and begins again, I always want to carry on watching. Endlessly fascinating, truly magical and a lot of fun!